I beg to move Amendment No. 2, in page 2, line 5, after 'payment', insert 'directly or indirectly'.
Whatever else may be said about the Bill, it has provided the setting for a debate which I believe will long be remembered. I know that I have heard speeches on both sides that we ought not to have missed.
My Amendment deals with a much more pedestrian point, but a matter of principle is involved, if only the principle that when legislation is passed it should be effective. The purpose is to prevent attempts to evade the provisions of the Bill.
Clause 2 prohibits spectator sport between certain hours on Sunday, but it is limited to spectacles for which spectators make payment for admission.
I am most grateful to you, Mr. Speaker.
I follow the reasoning behind that. The Clause is not intended to attract the little scratch game of football arranged at short notice between two factories where the contestants invite a couple of friends along. No one would wish that it should. But the purpose of the Clause would be wholly defeated if it were possible for a major professional event to take place upon the device of charging not for admission at the turnstiles but for a cushion or programme, or by means of an exorbitant fee at the car park.
This is not a fanciful suggestion. It was put forward by my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) on Second Reading, when he said:
All sorts of subterfuges are adopted. One can pay to watch motor racing on a Sunday at Brand's Hatch, near where I live, but not at the turnstile. Frequently, on Sunday afternoon, vast crowds assemble at Brand's Hatch, as my hon. Friends who live in that part of the country know, but payment is made by means of a parking fee. The subterfuges which are adopted bring the law into total disrespect and produce a cynical attitude towards the law relating to Sunday entertainments. I hope that the House, as the upholder of law and of public decency, will want to see an end to this cynicism and disrespect".—[OFFICIAL REPORT, 8th December, 1967; Vol. 755, c. 1899.]
Wherever else about which I may have disagreed with my hon. Friend during these debates, I endorse that wholeheartedly.
My hon. Friend repeated the argument during the Committee stage:
permits fiddles of this sort, then all the arguments about noise and so on fall by the wayside. If he is saying that it is only paying at
the gate that he is against, I do not know what these Amendments are about".
With the substitution of the word "Bill" for "Amendments" I would accept that.
My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary repeated that when he said:
One of the principal purposes of the Bill is to clarify what may and may not be done so as to prevent the sort of subterfuges with which the situation is at present riddled."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Standing Committee C, 31st January 1968; c. 28–30]
In those circumstances, I do not feel called upon to introduce the Amendment at great length. It is one that we may expect will have the wholehearted sympathy of my hon. Friend. The addition of these words is intended to enable a court more easily and readily and with less restraint to hold that the charging of an exorbitant parking fee is still a method of payment within the provisions of the Clause. I hope that my hon. Friend, who has shown a real spirit of generosity during these debates, will accept the Amendment in the spirit in which it is moved.
I feel a certain amount of sympathy with the Amendment. Everyone knows that in the past payment has been made for sports and entertainment where it has not been made at the gate. I suppose that one might say that the payment has been made indirectly.
I do not feel very strongly either way about this. The words proposed do not add anything to what is already in the Bill. If payment is made for a scorecard at a cricket match, I regard that as payment for entrance. But the only reason why this sort of thing happens now is that the present law is such a nonsense. After the Bill is passed, the law will be clear and well known, and it will be seen against the background of our debates. Everyone will be apprised of the situation.
The Bill liberalises sport and entertainment on a Sunday, so there will not be the present temptation to fiddle. With the present restrictive law, there is such a temptation. The Bill will emancipate sport and entertainment after 2 o'clock on a Sunday. It ought to be pointed out that I have provided for that very severe limitation on all sport and entertainment, despite what some people may say. Because of that limitation, some of my opponents have been given assurances, but because sport and entertainment will be afternoon free, there will be no need to fiddle.
However, I am in the hands of the House. If the House feels that this extra precaution is needed, then I am happy to accept the Amendment. Frankly, I do not think that it is needed.
While I appreciate the problems with which my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) has to deal, we are advised that the words of the Amendment would make no difference to the Clause. Either a person pays for the privilege of admission, or he does not. Whether payment is made directly or indirectly is irrelevant. What counts is whether any payment is for the privilege specified in the Clause. I hope that that explanation is clearer to the House than it is to me. However, our advisers say that the wording would not materially add to or subtract from the Clause.
With his advice, can the hon. Gentleman say what words would be appropriate to cover cases when a charge is made for cushions or other things, a charge which can be quite considerable? I understand that the suggested words do not cover such a case, but can he tell the House what words would?
It is monstrous for the sponsors of the Bill to say that it does not matter. As my hon. Friend the Member for Rowley Regis and Tipton (Mr. Archer) pointed out, on Second Reading my hon. Friend the Member for Woolwich, West (Mr. Hamling) made an issue of saying that we needed to get rid of archaic practices.
I did not say that it did not matter. I hope that my hon. Friend will read what I said. I said that I was quite easy about whether the House accepted the Amendment. I do not think that it adds to or takes anything from the Bill. I said that I was happy to leave the House to decide whether the words should be added.
In that case, I hope that the House will agree to the Amendment, because, without this safeguard, it will be possible to have sports and entertainment on a Sunday morning. There will be the subterfuges of people paying parking fees or buying programmes, and so on. There is still time for the hon. Gentleman to say that he is prepared to accept the Amendment.
I do not quarrel with the legal opinion given by the Under-Secretary. I do not have the competence to do so and it would be an impertinence for me, as a layman, to express a view on the legal interpretation and effect of these words. I think that the insertion of these words will serve a useful practical purpose because, after all, Acts of Parliament have on occasion to be interpreted by members of the public who may not necessarily have legal advice available to them at the time. If these words are not inserted in the Bill, we may get the position that a member of the public looking at the Act—